A defiant show of batting from Hanuma Vihari and Ravichandran Ashwin that saw India salvage a draw on a dramatic fifth day at Sydney on Monday (January 11) wasn’t the only major talking point of the match. On two seperate occasions, India pacer Mohammed Siraj had alerted the on-field umpires that he was subjected to racist abuse. The second time it happened, a group of four fans as well as a couple were escorted out of the grounds by the stadium police. The situation led to widespread condemnation from across the cricketing world, with everyone agreeing that any form of abuse by fans should be dealt with accordingly.
However, an Indian-Australian spectator by the name of Prateik Kelkar, who was among the six fans escorted out, has now said that he heard nothing racist from the group of four people who were first asked to leave and that he was sent out for sticking up for them.
“We got kicked out as well for sticking up for them, for saying that they didn’t say anything,” Kelkar told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“[Siraj] was pissed off because he got hit for two sixes the previous over. He came to field on the boundary. He was copping it a bit and then they said: ‘Welcome to Sydney, Siraj’. Next thing we knew they were getting kicked out.
“We were with the cops. They have a holding area in the stadium. They took our statements and ID. We were in separate interview rooms. A person from Cricket Australia spoke to us and said: ‘we can’t let you back there’.
“They didn’t want us talking to the media, so they escorted us out a back exit. They didn’t want us to go out through the front exit. Nothing happened to anybody, except getting kicked out. They just said, ‘Look, we’re hearing two sides of the story. No one is under arrest or anything of the sort, we just can’t have you come back today’.
“Basically they said if we had tickets for Monday we wouldn’t be able to come back. When they have finished their investigation they’re going to call us up and let us know.”
Kelkar has further said that it is possible Siraj was indeed racially abused by certain fans but that to his belief, it didn’t come from the fans sitting near him who were eventually asked to leave.
“I am Indian. I have been racially abused before in Australia and I can tell you that it wasn’t [racial abuse]. As you can tell from my accent, if there was something racist going on, I would have heard it and done something about it.
“Maybe he heard it somewhere else, sure, but it just wasn’t from the guys behind us. The problem is he can’t prove what he heard, we can’t prove that he didn’t hear it. It’s a shit situation, especially for the guys who got kicked out.”
Another Indian fan Kiran Aithala said that there was plenty of abusive language directed towards Siraj but that he heard nothing racist.
“The group of drunk guys behind was heckling Siraj using foul language … lots of f-words and c-words. I myself didn’t hear any racial abuse but there was plenty of abusive language used.
“There was a lady with her two young sons in the same row as me to my right and she seemed uncomfortable with the language used as well.”
The incident has led to Cricket Australia (CA) launching an enquiry of their own while the ICC has peldged to fully support the investigation and its findings.